Sunday morning was a sleep-in morning for Brian and a blog catch-up morning for me. We left the apartment at 10 am with a plan in mind. Today we’ll cover a lot of territory so we map out our metro route to Norte Dame and head to Starbucks for coffee. It’s another exceptional day, sunny, dry and 70 degrees. The streets are busier than I thought for a Sunday morning and Starbucks is packed.
We arrive at Notre Dame about 10:45 and get right in. There’s a mass going on and you can see the smoke in the air from the incense. The church is quite full with mass goers and tourists, there are curtains as a barrier around the pews and it’s hard to get a full view of the church and it’s vastness. In hindsight Sunday morning is probably not the best time to see Notre Dame. When we exit the church the lines are very long. At some point the bells start ringing and all I can think of are the people who’ve climbed to the top and are 3 feet away from the tolling bells. yikes!
The crypt below the church is our next stop before wandering around the Ile de la cite? The entrance to the crypt archeologique is located in front of the church down a set of stairs. It contains the remnants of various structures built on that spot over the last 2000 years. A roman residence, medieval shops, and a 4th century bathhouse to name some. Our museum pass can be used here as well.
Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of time before we have to find our way to Metro Jourdain in the 20th arrondissement to meet Cecelia our Paris Greeter.
In the meantime we pass Pont Neuf which Brian immediately recognizes from the Bourne Identity scene where Bourne sets up the meeting with Conklin and watches from the building across the street. Come to think of it most of us know Paris from the huge number of movie scenes we’ve seen over the years.
We’re getting to know the Metro quite well, the stations can be complicated but the signage is good and maps are plentiful. Our metro pass is easy to use. We get to our meeting area for Cecelia in plenty of time to grab a baguette and some cheese before meeting her. We’re searching for a place to sit and eat when a passing woman seeing smiles and points to a jardin la bas. Sure enough we find a little park filled with kids and families and a nice park bench.
Cecelia is on time and we all introduce ourselves. She explains that she’s lived in the 20th arrondissment for 7 years, works for an internet company, and grew up in a Paris suburb. Her father is Italian so she’s also lived in Italy and speaks Italian – her English is very good as well. We’re heading to Butte Chaumont. This is an amazing park built into the hillside on the site of a quarry. The Chaumont comes from Chauve-mont, or bare hill because the site was bare and ugly. This was Napoleon the third’s brilliant idea and it’s beautiful. Large trees, green grass, ponds and a waterfall. However the piece de resistance to me is the Temple de la Sibylle which towers above the park and is a look out. From there you have a view of the city and a good view of Sacre Coeur in the distance.
Our next stop is Canal St Martin, a 4.5 km canal in Paris that was formerly a trade route for barges and is now a picnic destination for families and recreation area for boaters. There are tour boats as well as small boats for rent. The canal is narrow with several locks so speed doesn’t enter the equation. It’s Sunday afternoon so the area along the canal is busy with picnicking families, kids running around, people dancing to music from a boom box, it’s a beautiful day to be outside.
After sharing a bottle of ice cold cider with Cecile she walks us to the nearest Subway system to return home. My Fitbit says 24700 steps and I can feel it!
The Paris greeter website is a great idea if you are interested in seeing the local (not tourist) Paris. You just sign up in advance on the website and give them a choice or 1-3 days you would like a tour and they match you with a local who is free that day. You set up a meeting and he/she shows you the neighborhood they live in. There is no charge but you can make a donation to the website after.
THE METRO – You hear about pickpockets all the time but when you actually see it its horrible. In this case it was 2-3 guys working as a tag team, one drops his ticket and pretends its under the target’s foot. While the target’s distracted another guy swipes the wallet, extracts the cash, and drops the wallet just as the door opens and they blend in with the crowd. They are practiced, fast, and ruthless. The average person doesn’t feel a thing and is no match for the thieves. Beware it happens all the time and they get away with it.